The driver of a tanker truck that sped towards thousands of protesters Sunday evening on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis was not intentionally trying to injure or kill people, according to an update from state leaders on Monday.
"We have not had any information that makes this seem like this was an intentional act," said John Harrington, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
"We do have some info that he was speeding," explained Harrington. "We do have some info that he saw the crowd and initially he panicked and he just kept barreling forward.
"Then he saw a young woman on a bike fall down in front of him and he slammed on the brakes. And he slid until the vehicle stopped."
Gov. Tim Walz said the driver, 35-year-old Bogdan Vechirko, "feels incredibly lucky that he did not kill someone," adding that even though he was assaulted after stopping the 18-wheeler he "is really lucky Minnesota showed some of their better angels and he did not get killed."
Video from the incident revealed that many peaceful protesters were trying to protect Vechirko before handing him over to police, who arrived on the bridge within minutes.
Vechirko was treated at a local hospital and then taken into custody and booked into the Hennepin County Jail on Sunday night. It's unclear yet if he'll face any criminal charges.
Harrington said the driver was already on the freeway when MnDOT was rushing to close entrance ramps in a last-minute decision to shut down freeways and highways in and out of Minneapolis and St. Paul due to protesters marching on the interstates.
"We know that the driver of the tanker truck was on the freeway already. He was on 94 already and he turned onto 35 before we got barricades or trucks there to block off his access to 35. This was his second run of the day. He was running empty, there was no fuel in that tanker truck," said Harrington.
The freeways and highways in and out of Minneapolis and St. Paul were originally planned to be closed at 8 p.m., with the late decision made to shut them down by 5 p.m. to protect protesters on the major arteries.